Thursday, March 24, 2011

I heart ha-chchs

This isn't a mommy blog but I feel compelled to recognize the intuitiveness of children- my child in this case - as I name this post.  It was only a matter of time before a helicopter themed entry showed up in this journal or as Luca would say, a 'ha-chch' themed entry.  Yes, why shouldn't everything be named according to the sound it makes ( like helicopters and their propellors' sound: ha-chchchchch)?  The famous inconsistencies of the English language would all but disappear.   If we could have more splash type words and less silence (a really noisy word if you ask me) type words, we would be on the right track.  So, as an ode to my dear son: vive la onomatopeoia - we all heart ha-chchs!

We have been here just under a month now and this is around the time when I expect to shift mentally into "I live here" territory. I don't feel this yet because my life here has been largely the same as it was at home (note 'home' is still not here) except that here I seem to constantly be finding sand between the sofa cushions.  For Gavin, however, life became different almost upon arrival, as soon as the bulk of his time started going to either preparing for or actually flying the Robinson R22M that is and will remain his classroom for the next nine or so months.

And it's not just the actual flying lessons and the ground school (which, to the un-airborne of us, is just plain school- or hittin' the books).  It's all the industry savviness that he has to collect......and the connections with the mechanics and the airport and airfield staff that he has to charm and all the lingo.... This past weekend, he attended the largest helicopter convention and exposition in the world.  In recent years it has been held in Houston, Anaheim and Dallas.  What a serendipitous stroke of luck that this year the International Heli-Expo was in Orlando, Florida!  Yes, a mere 3 1/2 hour  drive - which ,in the vast expanse of the flat marsh that is Florida, is just up the palm-edged road.

So, off he went on a quick jaunt for the weekend.  There, his school had a booth on the trade show floor along with hundreds of suppliers, employers, schools, helicopter manufacturers and countless other muckety-mucks of the helicopter world.

At a special ceremony marking the introduction (and, judging from all the hoopla - sale) of a new model of helicopter, one of Igor Sekorsky's sons was in attendance representing his father at this photo opp.  Now, I will save you the trouble of consulting Professor Google and let you know that Igor Sekorsky was a Russian-American engineer known for inventing, designing and building the first successful helicopter.  When he died in 1972, he left a legacy of aircrafts, books and children.  One of his spawn was there  suited up and signing cheques, smiling for cameras and generally doing whatever  propellor pomp and ceremony was called for.  So that was kind of a big deal.  Apparently the owner of the school Gavin attends (a moderately large operation with several 'campuses' all over the US) looks deceivingly like the guy down the street but is, in fact, very much a heli-celebrity.  There he was rubbing shoulders with a former student, now the Captain of the CBS helicopter crew that does the aerial video for the reality show, Survivor.

It seems that people in the helicopter industry are like couples who have been together a long time or dog owners and their canine buddies:  they start to look like their this case, their 'ships'.  The CBS survivor guy had a camouflage photographer's vest like the helicopter he flies.  The Sekorsky crew looking very a la 'men in black' had their shiny black, tinted-windowed birds parked nearby.  

While there, Gavin also attended a student symposium where the keynote speaker - a former President of the largest helicopter school in North America - told his audience that the average helicopter pilot is a mild-mannered introvert.  The nature of the job just attracts people with an inclination to the solitary, apparently.  "So", he said, "even if you are just a little bit of a people person you will stand out from your peers".  That was one of the big take-home messages.....

Also part of this symposium was a Q&A with a panel of other helicopter types.  Among the panelists was a woman who was, like Gavin, a 'Second Career Pilot'.  Apparently, there are enough of these fool-hardy types who trade their 'grounded' existences for the uncertainties of heli-life to warrant a name for their group.  Her message was 'network, network, network'.  Network to get jobs, scholarships, good rates for flying time.....Well, network he will but I think she has a leg up on the scholarship side of things being a woman ( Now, fancy that, a leg up for a woman - hmmm).  Anyway, I don't think Gavin would qualify for a grant from 'Whirly Girls'.

So, the moral of this story, Gavin reported, is that in order to pursue this loner loving career where most of one's time at work is spent alone in the air - just you and your ship with no one to talk to but air traffic control and nothing but the sound of your own breath and the silence of the sky..... not only do you have to dress like your helicopter looks (which is unfortunate for Gavin who flies a blue and white striped craft with giant pontoons on the bottom) but you also have to be some kind of social- butterfly fluttering about trading business cards...introducing yourself to strangers... not just joining, but initiating conversations....making small talk, then....making bigger talk and generally being the life of the party.  

Hmm what a contradiction of high altitude proportions...

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